The European Commission decided today to refer Ireland (INFR(2021)2015) and Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Latvia, and Portugal to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to implement various provisions of Regulation 1143/2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species (the ‘Invasive Alien Species' or ‘IAS Regulation'). Invasive alien species are plants and animals which are accidentally or deliberately introduced to an area where they are not normally found.
Preventing harm to European biodiversity
Invasive alien species are one of the five major causes of biodiversity loss in Europe and worldwide. They are plants and animals that are introduced accidentally or deliberately as a result of human intervention into a natural environment where they are not normally found. They represent a major threat to native plants and animals in Europe, causing an estimated damage of EUR 12 billion per year to the European economy. Addressing them is an important aspect of the EU's aim to stop biodiversity loss as articulated in the European Green Deal and the European Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.
The IAS Regulation includes measures to be taken across the EU in relation to invasive alien species that are of concern for the EU. The six Member States did not establish, implement and communicate to the Commission an action plan (or a set of action plans) to address the most important pathways of introduction and spread of these invasive alien species. In addition, Bulgaria and Greece have not yet established a surveillance system of invasive alien species of Union concern, or included it in their existing system, although the deadline for this was January 2018. Also, Greece does not have the structures in place to carry out the official controls necessary to prevent the intentional introduction of invasive alien species.
Enforcement action by the Commission
The Commission sent letters of formal notice to 18 Member States in June 2021 (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia), followed by reasoned opinions to 15 of these (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Ireland, Greece, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia) in February 2022. Since then, eleven Member States have complied with their obligations and one of them will adopt the missing steps promptly. However, despite some progress, the remaining six Member States (Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia and Portugal) have not fully addressed the grievances. The Commission considers that efforts by the authorities of these six Member States have to date been unsatisfactory and insufficient and is therefore referring them to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The IAS Regulation entered into force on 1 January 2015 and focuses on species considered to be ‘of Union concern'. This list currently includes 88 species, for instance plants such as the water hyacinth and animals like the Asian hornet or the raccoon, that require action at European level. Member States are obliged to take effective measures to prevent the intentional or unintentional introduction of these species into the EU, to detect them and take rapid eradication measures at an early stage of invasion or, if the species are already widely established, to take measures to eradicate, control or prevent them from spreading any further.
There are at least 12 000 alien species in the European environment, of which 10–15 % are invasive. Invasive alien species can cause the local extinction of indigenous species, for instance through competition for limited resources such as food and habitats, inter-breeding or the spread of disease. They can alter the functioning of entire ecosystems, compromising their ability to provide valuable services, such as pollination, water regulation or flood control. The Asian hornet, for example, introduced by accident into Europe in 2005, preys on native honeybees, reduces local
native insect biodiversity and impacts pollination services in general.
Invasive alien species often have significant economic impacts, reducing yields from agriculture, forestry and fisheries. For example, the American comb jelly which was introduced accidentally into the Black Sea was responsible for a sharp decrease in no less than 26 commercial Black Sea fish stocks, including anchovy and chub mackerel. Invasive species can damage infrastructure, obstruct transportation or decrease water availability by blocking waterways or clogging industrial water pipes.
Invasive alien species can also be a major problem for human health, triggering serious allergies and skin problems (e.g. burns caused by the giant hogweed) and acting as vectors for dangerous pathogens and diseases (e.g. transmission of disease to animals and humans by raccoons).
In this context, preventive action, which is the subject of today's decisions to refer to the Court, is an essential investment since it is much more effective and costs less to prevent the introduction of invasive species than to address and mitigate the damage once they are widespread.
For More Information
- Publication date
- 26 January 2023
- Representation in Ireland